PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Mother Nature causes a media whiteout

NEW YORK: Only a true PR genius could divert the country's attention from Iraq, UN acrimony, duct tape, terror alerts, reality shows, and Jacko's inexplicable antics. Who has the power to perform such wizardry? Mother Nature, of course.

NEW YORK: Only a true PR genius could divert the country's attention from Iraq, UN acrimony, duct tape, terror alerts, reality shows, and Jacko's inexplicable antics. Who has the power to perform such wizardry? Mother Nature, of course.

Last week, the weather goddess didn't just cover much of the East Coast with record amounts of snow, she also covered all possible PR tracks flawlessly.

The first requirement of solid PR is always a good story. A massive snowstorm that causes some of the US' busiest cities to come to a standstill surely qualifies.

The Home Depot certainly appreciated the boost, as media outlets up and down the East Coast continually discussed how the retailer's sales of shovels and snow blowers soared thanks to the inclement weather. (It was a two-week boon for The Home Depot. In the previous week, the store found itself in the nexus of the duct-tape scare.)

The story also needs widespread media play. Every local outlet, and many national ones, led with extensive coverage of Blizzard 2003. The strongest winter storm to hit the region in seven years even earned a front-page spot in many of the nation's newspapers. On Monday, The Washington Post ran three front-page stories on the blizzard that had engulfed the nation's capital. On Tuesday, both The New York Times and the Post offered blizzard editorials.

Moreover, the storm offered angles of interest to various audiences.

Stories about everything from good Samaritans to the cost of the clean-up for already cash-strapped local and state governments gave the media multiple ways to approach the coverage.

One might suspect that the producers of Joe Millionaire planned this storm in order to assure the highest possible ratings for the show's finale.

Quite frankly, however, such a PR masterstroke is likely beyond even Rupert Murdoch's capabilities.

Although Fox should get some credit for the 40 million viewers who tuned in to watch Evan pick Zora, it's Mother Nature who earned the PR Play of the Week.

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